PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A child with autism is hoping for a very special dog for Christmas this year.
Twelve-year-old Deklan lost his service dog, Saint Bernard Andy, last summer and now his family is trying to raise money for a new one.
“Without Andy, life was miserable,” Deklan said.
“He was wonderful, he saved Deklan’s life on many occasions,” Deklan’s mom Rochelle Montes told KOIN 6 News.
Montes said Deklan can get sensory overload and feel overwhelmed, causing him to want to run away.
“That is a scary thing for busy places — grocery stores, parking lots, busy roads — so we are fundraising for another dog to prevent Deklan from running away,” Montes said.
Autism Anchoring Dogs, like Andy and Valor, are harnessed to a child with autism to prevent them from running off. They are all large breeds — Saint Bernards, Leonbergers and Newfoundlands — trained to sit and brace to prevent the child from going too far.
“They have a counterweight to stop a child in Deklan’s weight-class at the drop of a hat,” Kirsten Becker with Autism Anchoring Dogs said. “They perform something called therapeutic pressure, like right now, he’s doing the lean on me.”
Deklan is hoping the community will help his family with fundraising to help him bring home “Valor” … a service dog that’s currently undergoing Autism Anchoring training #koin6news #AutismAwareness #autismanchoringdogs pic.twitter.com/Aix55QMmsW— Jennifer Dowling (@JenDowlingKoin6) December 24, 2018
Becker said nearly half of children with autism wander and she helped to start the program after she lost her own child when he rook off running during a trip to Crater Lake.
“My son ran away and was never found,” Becker said.
Becker said the service dogs get around 200 hours of training and because of that and the expense of the breed, they can run around $35,000.
Montes said they only need about $10,000 to get Valor for Deklan.
“We are really excited about Valor joining our family,” Montes said.